Updated on the 5th of January, 2017 to provide instructional material to accompany the example from the original article.
Customer complaints are a daily reality for most businesses.
Your product or service might be top of the line. Your customer service may be best in class.
Doesn’t matter. You are still going to get complaints.
And that’s actually a good thing.
Today, we’re going to discuss why customer or client complaints can be a huge asset for you business and then show you how to harness those assets by crafting an ROI-boosting complaint response letter.
Why Customer Complaints Are Retention Gold
Customer retention is the top priority for any business wishing to achieve long-term success.
- Repeat customers are worth up to 10 times the value of their initial purchase.
- It’s seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer versus retaining an existing one.
- It’s six times easier to sell to existing customers versus new customers.
So if our goal is retention, why are complaints so valuable? In short, customer complaints are a gold mine of valuable data that help us understand our customer base and improve retention.
For every customer who complains, 26 others remain silent. In other words, complaints give us insight into potentially pervasive problems that are bothering a large segment of our customer base. When customers complain, they are actively teaching you how to improve your product.
Additionally, when you successfully resolve a customer complaint, their odds of doing business with you again actually increase compared to if they had never made a complaint in the first place.
The key phrase here is “successfully resolve”, and that’s what we’ll be covering in the next section.
How to Respond to a Customer Complaint
When responding to a customer complaint, it’s important to do three specific things:
- Respond specifically to the issues brought up by the customer.
- Provide a specific apology that acknowledges any mistakes on your end.
- State exactly what you intend to do (or have already done) to make it right.
- Propose how you will improve the customer’s experience in the future.
You may have noticed a theme here, and that theme is specificity.
Customers don’t want a vague non-response that insults their intelligence. If you are going to respond to a complaint, it’s important to be very specific.
First, actually address each portion of the customer’s complaint. If the complaint came via a brief or mid-sized message, respond to each point. If it was a lengthy rant, try to address the main (or rational) points.
Next, take ownership of anything your business messed up or could have done better. If you made a legitimate error, say sorry. If your customer was confused about something most people understand, apologize that the experience wasn’t more intuitive.
Most importantly, make it right. Resolve the issue. Fix the problem. And then tell the customer EXACTLY what you did to ensure that they are happy in the end.
Finally, tell your customer about how you will their experience with your business better in the future. In some cases, this might just be a fix on your end. In other cases, it might require the customer to better understand your product. Either way, tactfully propose a solution that ensures the customer’s next experience with your business is a positive one.
To better understand these points, let’s look at a real-life example from Andrew Neitlich.
I got quite frustrated with my experience with Yahoo!’s Overture advertising service yesterday when loading up terms for a new site. I don’t know if you agree with me, but I find Google’s advertising interface much, much, much easier to work with than Yahoo!’s.
So I filled in a customer feedback form and sent in my complaint to Yahoo! Mostly I did this to vent, as I didn’t expect a response from a huge company like Yahoo!. Most companies don’t respond anymore to individual online complaints.
Yet Yahoo! responded with a terrific, personalized letter. (Had I known I’d get a response, I would have provided much more detailed feedback). I print the response here, because it is an excellent example of how to respond online to a complaint. I still like using Google much more, but at least I’m not going to cancel my Yahoo! account and stop advertising (which is where I was at yesterday). Notice how they cover in detail my issues, apologize where appropriate, explain their service, and give advice about things I can do better.
Here is their response, printed here as a template you might use for your sites or even clients:
I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience these issues may have caused you. I have taken the liberty of resubmitting your listings that were incorrectly declined for Broken Site. According to my research, your listings that were declined for Blocked Site were also declined for Duplication of Results. This means that the keywords that you were attempting to add to your account, already existed in your account, and were seen as a duplicate of an existing listing. This means that the keywords you were hoping to add already exist in your account.
You are correct, after further review it was acknowledged that your site does not offer a product of service that Yahoo! does not to be affiliated with, and therefore the Blocked Site decline reason was an incorrect one. This decline reason did not affect the outcome of your submission.
The keywords that were declined for Insufficient Content, were declined correctly. You were attempting to bid on keywords like “business coach executive professional,” and “life and business coach,” but it is not clear if a user can actually find a business coach on your site, or if they will be referred to 3rd party for assistance with that request. If you were to offer more information on the “Locate an Executive Coach” section of your site, you could be approved for those keywords.
You may be interested to know that Yahoo! is developing a new advertiser interface that will offer business owners a more powerful advertising experience, and we plan to roll this interface out during the second half of this year.
I understand that there are several things in your account that you would like changed, and I would just like to let you know that we take advertiser feedback very seriously as we are always striving to improve our services. We welcome any additional feedback you may have.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance. Thank you for choosing Yahoo! Search Marketing!
Yahoo! Search Marketing
As Andrew mentioned, this is a superb example of a customer response letter from the Yahoo! Search Marketing team.
Yahoo! hit on each critical point in its response letter.
- Respond specifically to the issues brought up by the customer.
- Provide a specific apology that acknowledges any mistakes on your end
- State exactly what you intend to do (or have already done) to make it right
- Propose how you will improve the customer’s experience in the future
Use this same strategy to respond to your own customer complaints and improve customer retention.